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Sharks are being cruelly killed in longline fisheries to retain hooks, according to fisheries observer reports released to Forest & Bird under the Official Information Act. 

The reports reveal a series of incidents where fishers have brutally killed or maimed sharks, cut out the hook and then thrown the dead or dying sharks overboard.  

One of the reports describes a skipper enticing his crew to kill every blue shark that they can, using their leased quota to "reduce the population size". 

Another report writes of sharks being thrown overboard alive with their jaws hanging loose after being cut through to the gills, just so the fishers could retrieve the hook. 

“These reports, made over five years, make clear this is not an isolated incident,” says spokesperson Geoff Keey.   

“Sharks are magnificent creatures deserving of our respect. New Zealanders will be horrified, as is Forest & Bird, to hear of fishers swinging sharks by their tails, throwing them in the air, or cutting ‘the jaws through to the gills and guts’. 

"Sharks that aren't intended for food should be released back to the sea alive and unharmed by cutting the line.  

"Forest & Bird is urging the fishing industry to end the practice of killing and maiming unwanted sharks and calls on the Minister of Oceans and Fisheries to ban this horrific practice. 

"Later this year the Minister of Oceans and Fisheries will be deciding on a new National Plan of Action on Sharks, this Plan of Action should end all needless killing of sharks." 

The reports are written by official Government observers who accompanied longline fishing vessels on monitoring trips between 2016 and 2021. 

Quotes from observer reports:    

Trip 1: 

"Crew have also become impatient with small blue sharks that come on board alive. Rather than try and unhook them one crew member stabs them to death, removes the hook then throws them back." 

"One crew member told off for [unclear] unnessecarily [sic] stabbing sharks to death just to make getting hooks out easier." 

"Just to clarify, all small BWS [blue sharks] are hauled on board and there [sic] jaws cut to free hook. There [sic] jaw appears to be hanging off. Observer doubts they will survive."  

"Crew member who stabbed sharks needlessly is now swinging them by their tails and throwing them as high as he can." 

Trip 2: 

"All sharks discarded ~10% brought on board to kill then throw back. Every shark had jaw cut to get hook out." 

Trip 3: 

"’Animal cruelty act’ Note on BWS discards. Crew have been hauling some smaller ones onboard to retrieve the hooks. The handling of these sharks is brutal as they stand on them and cut the jaws through to the gills and guts at times to get the hooks back then discard the dying body. No effort is made to kill them first." 

Trip 4: 

“The vessel lands on board all BWS and the crew kills them with a spinal cut and retrieves the hook. The skipper, [redacted], says that the owner [redacted] has ACE [annual catch entitlement] to cover these BWS which are then discarded.” 

“Vessel releases POS [Porbeagle sharks] (usually dead) small MAK [mako sharks] (under approx 2 metres) and small STN [southern bluefin tuna] (under approx 25kg). I am unsure if the vessel considers the BWS killed and discarded are 6th Sched. Releases or are covered by the vessels [sic] BWS ACE, I have placed them under 6th Sched. in my paperwork."   

Trip 5: 

"I heard the skipper, [redacted], tell a crew member that with the quota he leases, he is also allocated BWS quota. He was given the quota and told to use it by killing as many BWS as possible to reduce the population size. 

Basically even if a BWS is alive the crew are enticed to kill it and return it to the sea. 

Today all 8 dead BWS that were returned to the sea under Schedule 6 were killed deliberately and it was not necessary to do so.” 


Dropbox containing OIA documents and a selection of Creative Commons images

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